This is a 3D photographic model of the squatted street I lived in for 15 years. Its name comes from a Hackney Gazette headline calling my neighbourhood 'The Ghetto' and goes on to describe my home; "The neighbourhood is a crime-ridden derelict ghetto, a cancer- a blot on the landscape. Why would people want to live there anyway?" me and over 100 others, that's who. This work is on permanent display at the Museum of London
This series of photographs was taken in my street in Hackney, 1997. Myself and the residents who made up this community were fighting eviction as squatters. The title of the series comes from the wording used in our eviction orders. The postures and gestures reference Vermeer's paintings and set out to give status and dignity to our community.
This series of images depicts the folklore and myths that have built up around my community and surroundings in Hackney over the past twenty-five years. The photographs reference historical tableaux paintings to create striking mythical images which celebrate life by transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.
In Flashback I've blurred the boundaries between fine art practice and documentary by re-examining the history of London using key artefacts from the Museum of London’s collections which illustrate key moments in the history of London. For example, sets such as the 1920’s Selfridges lift and the 17th century Newgate prison cell and costumes such as the 18th century city merchant and a 1950’s nippy waitress outfit. These were then interwoven with people from the wider museum community, such as local schoolchildren, a representative of the Lesbian and Gay cross gender community, board members, museum employees and artisans. By combining and mixing up these three elements I have created unique and surprising portraits, which steal from different times and fashions. This disorientates the viewer by creating a visual jigsaw puzzle, challenging them to make sense of the images, which are clearly at odds with what one expects from period portraits.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is inspired by Shakespeare’s play and the paintings of Romantic artist Henry Fuseli. This contemporary reworking of the play is set in Hackney, East London and features local people and communities including samba dancers, pearly kings and queens, a thrash metal band and a pole dancer. Taking key moments from the play, I have distilled Shakespeare’s work into a series of images which weave together contemporary city life with that of the celebrated tale of love and illusion. This series of nine works was commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company to celebrate their 50th birthday season.
Punch Professors in England features contemporary Punch practitioners, known since Victorian times as ‘Professors', who for generations have brought the story of Punch and Judy to life with their wit and personality. Specially commissioned for Mr Punch’s 350th birthday celebrations by the V&A's Museum of Childhood, the portraits show each Professor alongside their booth, expressing the highly individual approaches each of them have to their performance.
Many of the buildings I have photographed are monuments to this industrial past, showing us the fingerprints of working lives and the products that these endveours have created and from them a way of life and culture. I have always been attracted to these shrines from a disappearing world, a world my grandfather was meshed too, with his engineering company in Birmingham. A world I have explored through photography in Hackney Wick, where the industrial landscape became a playground for the dispossessed, and is now reincarnated as an Olympic wonderland. All these elements have aligned themselves in this photographic essay, connecting my history to my country’s and Birmingham to Hackney. In the same way Alexander Parkes of Birmingham invented Parkesine, the base material of my film and took it to Hackney Wick to be mass-produced, I now take my pinhole photography back in time to Birmingham, to illuminate and document this very special place.
After the Battle of the Beanfield a new breed of travellers took the free festival scene off to foreign shores… In 1995 Tom set off from a squatted street in Hackney with a group of friends in an old double decker bus, loaded with sosmix, muesli, baby-foot table and a sound system. Fuelled by selling egg butties, veggie burgers and beer, their journey took them through folk festivals in France, tecknivals in Czech, hippie gatherings in Austria and beach parties in Spain. Le Crowbar Café became a staple diet for a nomad party community hungry for all night food and cheesy music, an oasis in a storm of musical madness. Tom’s book paints a vivid picture of friends on a journey, exploring new horizons and ways of living on the road.
Growing up in Dorset, the ancient landscape always loomed large over my life. Every trip out, whether walking, catching the school bus or just going to the local shops involved driving down a Roman road, passing a hill fort, spotting an ancient burial mound or meeting the Devil’s Stone on Black Hill. Later as I started walking this landscape, the hill forts of Hambeldon Hill, Hod Hill, Badbury Rings and Spetsibury Rings took me back to an imagined world of Asterix and Obelix fighting great battles of independence and liberation. As a teenager in the late seventies the tribalism and eccentricity in England seemed to explode, with hundreds of bikers roaring through our village on a Bank holiday, like a huge invading army of Goths to the Mods, Skinheads and my new adopted brethren the Punks. Some of these tribes were drawn to the Stonehenge free festival. Wandering through the makeshift encampment was for me to wander back through the Imperial Roman Empire, with the Police in strict formations, uniforms and detachments, stationed around the festival site, peering but not venturing in, as if scared by ancient magic. Inside the encampment tribes of Hippies, Hells Angels, Punks, Druids and locals circled and swarmed in some strange dance. As you traversed the main drag, which led from ancient burial mounds to Stonehenge itself, you were bombarded with signs for magic potions with such names as White Lightenings, Supermen, Red dragons and Shroom tea. This seemed to be the last stand for the plucky eccentrics who, like Asterix and Obelix, used stones as symbols of their connection to the earth and the environment around them. Since then while travelling through the south west of England I have always tried to carry Ordnance survey maps so that I might find stone circles, hill forts and ancient archaeological sites. I have become fascinated by megalithic architecture and its connection with the landscape that it inhabits. Creating Axis Mundi has led me on a pilgrimage through the landscape of our past. The sites, which were built from as long ago as 3000BC, have no documentation from their creators to illuminate their functions or meanings so hover in our imaginations as places of magic and mystery. From this local folk tales have become part of the language that connects the people with the stones. Men an Tol, meaning “the hole stone” in Cornish is synonymous with myths involving rituals where locals pass through the stone in order to cure maladies and infertility. Names such as Dorset’s Hellstone describes a burial mound but takes away from its original meaning and says more about Britain’s relationship to its past and a new Christian identity. One thing is certain whilst visiting these sites the stones have a powerful presence and a gravity all of their own. Standing beneath the huge monoliths at Avebury they impose an awe of respect resembling that of a celestial body. In some ways the stones not only become monuments and shrines but statues in their own right. This magnetic connection to a physical body is the same relationship I feel in the presence of Henry Moore’s large-scale abstract figures. His use of huge masses to transform spaces, relationships and recognition encourage the viewer to find meaning in form. The same happens whilst viewing the stones where a burial mound is transformed into a Grey Mare and her Colts on a Dorset hillside and a Cornish stone circle metamorphoses into Nine Maidens. The forms within my images are transformed into visions of the eternal by the use of the dramatic skyscapes. This echoes John Martin’s expression of religious passion through animated skies to enhance his biblical narratives, such as Joshua commanding the sun to stand still and The Fallen Angels Entering Pandemonium. In Chun Quoit and Trowlesworthy warren the ambience and drama of Martin’s skies have been reimagined to enhance the connection the stones make between the Earth and the Heavens. Even though the eccentric tribes were beaten at the Battle of the Beanfield and the bureaucratic army of English Heritage has put Stonehenge behind a fence of cream teas and visitor centre car parks, dressed stones still hold an important place within our lives. In death they are used as monuments, from the burial mounds of the ancient to todays smaller inscribed headstones, which commemorate and venerate past lives. They are the man made embodiment of the tree with their roots to the earth, their trunks connecting this world to the hereafter. The images that make up Axis Mundi are taken in different locations and at different archaeological sites. However, the meaning is the same, our quest to form a physical and spiritual relationship with our surroundings on Earth to that of the stars and heavens. For me the stones are powerful totems with the ability to transport to magical and imagined worlds. They not only constitute temples in their many manifestations, in circles, Ellipses and rows, but individually as guides, evoking personal relationships within their forms. Many of the stones, which once littered the landscape, like an ancient forest, have been removed over the course of the millennia. The ones that remain I want to portray and personalise, to render their likeness and nobility to the wider audience that they once had, as if Kings and Queens of a forgotten age.